The Qualities of Great Leaders

Leadership (Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr.)
Leadership (Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr.)

Mike Giorgione is a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and founder of LeadingLeaders. He shared some thoughts about leadership as part of the Alumni Expert Series presented by the Penn State Alumni Association, World Campus Alumni Society, World Campus Blue & White Society, and Alumni Career Services Office.





In thinking about what makes for great leadership, we can start by discussing what it does not look like. Great leadership isn’t putting oneself ahead of others. It isn’t someone who lets his or her ego get in the way, or puts one’s own goals before the mission of the organization.

On the other hand, here’s what great leadership is:

Caring about your people and the organization. Understanding the responsibilities that come with the position, as well as the authority and accountability that you have. Many people want the authority — and maybe the responsibility — but forget about the accountability that goes with it. You must be able to stand up when things go well, and also when they don’t go so well.

Three Leadership Qualities

Know yourself.

What is your leadership style? You should probably have more than one. Different situations with different people require specific skill sets. A good leader must know how to use the right style for that situation.

Know what your strengths are and use them to your advantage. Recognize your weaknesses and figure out how to mitigate them.

Live your mission.

Believe in the organization you lead. Understand your mission, principles, and values. You should arrive at work each day happy, passionate, and driven in a positive way. You should care about your organization’s people, profits, success, and reputation. People can see in your eyes and your heart if you enjoy what you do. If you aren’t passionate and motivated about what you’re doing, people can tell.

Lead your people.

You must lead people with compassion. Learn what they want in life, and what their motivations and priorities are. You must know how to not only discipline people appropriately, but also how to reward them appropriately.

Developing a team is one of the most important things you will do as a leader.

So, what’s the most important thing a leader should do? Develop other leaders! If you view leading your team as cultivating future leaders, you will always be looking out for them and thinking about what will benefit them. You will look for ways to challenge them. Give them tougher assignments and help them grow. This makes them even more productive and more efficient at what they do, which in turn also benefits the entire organization. Helping your team members develop strong skills and attributes makes a stronger team.

The ultimate goal of any leader should be to prepare others to eventually take your job. This is how you build a strong, healthy organization with a long-term future of success.

Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your organization, the people you are leading, and how you can serve them best.